Author Archives: hilaryahartman

Olympic nostalgia and the link between music and memories

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“Home” by Phillip Phillips will always remind me of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. I heard it 5 billion times a day in July and August as NBC used it with footage of various events, especially gymnastics, which has always been one of my favorite sports (I was a gymnast for a year or two when I was little and I loved it! However, the gym I went to was a bit competitive and I was told I would never be a professional because I was too tall. I was like 8 or 9 years old. I digress…). I’m actually not sick of the song (yet), which is incredible to me. I think it’s because of that sense of togetherness that the Olympic Games brings to the world. The song reminds me of the feelings I get when I watch them. It’s like when I hear the Olympic Theme… but we’ll get to that soon. I can’t find the intro/promo that I’m thinking of, but I did find this version from the Olympic Gymnastics Trials in San Jose. It’s a similar idea and feel.

“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell will always remind me of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The song was used in the opening ceremonies with an aerial acrobatics routine. I cried. Like a baby. It’s a beautiful song to begin with, but now I feel like I have an emotional connection because I think of the Olympics and that few weeks of my life in February 2010 when I was unemployed and I spent my days watching Olympic curling (they seriously play it like 24/7) as I wrote cover letters and submitted applications. It was a really rough time for me, but the Olympics was my escape. I think my connection with Mitchell’s song comes from just hearing the right message at the right time. I’ve looked at many things from both sides, but I still really don’t know anything about anything. If you haven’t seen it, watch it here.

It’s not just the actual games that seem to turn me into an emotional basket case. P&G has been airing their “proud sponsor of moms” commercials for at least the 2010 & 2012 games. I am particularly fond of the commercial featuring “Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel.” First time I saw I – yep you guessed it – cried like a baby.

These types of emotions aren’t only linked to the Olympics, obviously. I just remember hearing “Home” on the radio the other day and I immediately thought of the Olympics and how much I miss them and the feelings they bring that I can’t seem to describe. The emotions seem to range from a sense of hope, to belonging, to peace, to competition, to dreams coming true, to sadness after losses, to so many other things. I’m rambling and I’m not entirely sure what this blog post is even about anymore.

I suppose I started writing this because I was listening to music and I heard “Home”. I’ve also been missing the Olympics desperately lately. I would love to come home in the evening and turn on the coverage. I’d love to hear the Olympic Theme song (“Bugler’s Dream” and “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”), which sounds so regal and glorious and awesome. It’s one of my favorite pieces, though it’s really a medley of part of Leo Anaud’s Charge Suite and Olympic Fanfare and Theme by John Williams. It’s all a little confusing, but feel free to read more about the history here. It reminds me a bit of Aaron Copland. To me, it’s patriotic without being obnoxious and over-the-top American. Someone out there understands me, right? It’s simply a beautiful composition.

I don’t really know what I’m saying anymore. I’m just having fun looking up all of these things on YouTube and watching/listening to them. All I know is that Sochi, Russia 2014 can’t come soon enough!

Also – Anyone want to start planning a trip to the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016? 🙂

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2013

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I spent quite a few minutes trying to come up with an appropriately awesome title for this blog post and what do I come up with? “2013”. Lame.

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I think they sound too black and white. Either you keep them, or you don’t. I sometimes, but not always, like to make goals for the new year. Turns out, I’ve got a lot in store for 2013. I wanted to publish my goals somewhere for a few reasons: 1) I’ll always be able to find the list, and 2) I do better with accountability, so the fact that this list is public (albeit, not very public, since not many people read my blog, which is ok) will help me work toward these goals. So without further ado, I give you my goals for 2013:

  • Use my passport at least once – I’ve got a shiny new passport with no stamps! I must remedy that this year.
  • Travel somewhere within the U.S. that I’ve never been to before – There are tons of places in the U.S. I’d love to visit. This is a good reason to pick one and go!
  • Learn to bake bread – I want to learn new skills and baking bread is one that is elusive to me (and frankly, is a little scary).
  • Read at least 12 books I’ve never read, but already own – I did this in 2012 and did a good job, but I still have books on my shelves that I own, but have never read. Need to see what they’re about it!
  • Occasional digital cleanses – Every once-in-awhile, take a step back from the technology and social media to slow down, unwind and reconnect with the “real world”

This list can be added to and subtracted from throughout the year. That’s what I like about it. Very few of these things are the type of things where you can’t recover if you fall off the horse (like weight loss and resolutions to work out more). I can bake bread once in January and if it’s not right – hell, even if it’s downright wrong – I can still learn to bake bread sometime in the next 11 months.

I decided to do a digital cleanse 3 years ago when John Mayer tweeted that he was doing one. He explained it all and at the time, I was unemployed and on my computer a LOT. Some of the time, I was applying for jobs (a lot of the time, actually), but a good deal of time was also just randomly surfing the internet out of boredom. I saw John’s idea and thought it was a good one. I stepped back from my computer and cell phone for 7 days. No Twitter, no Facebook, no other “entertainment” websites (BuzzFeed, Redit, Tumblr…). I also used my cell phone for making and receiving phone calls. That’s it! No email on my phone, no texting, no internet.

I found that I had SO much time on my hands! I started to go to the fitness center at our apartment complex. I ran and biked and lifted weights for 45 minutes every morning. I cooked myself breakfast. I read books. I was able to really focus on my job search because I wasn’t constantly (read: obsessively) checking Facebook and Twitter. I reconnected with music. I used to just have it on in the background of whatever I was doing, but I began to play music and just lie on the floor and listen to it.

I’ve decided to do another digital cleanse to start the new year, and to sprinkle them in throughout the year as well, especially when I find myself getting too attached. So starting today, January 1, 2013, and lasting one week, I will abstain from Facebook and Twitter (except where they are required for my job). I will not be on Pinterest, which will be the really hard one for me, as I’m obsessed with it. I will use my phone for phone calls only. It’s really hard, but I’m hoping to find myself with more time on my hands and I’m hoping to enjoy that time more as I won’t be worried about missing out on something on social media. Feel free to join me! I can’t promise you anything, but I know I’ve benefited a great deal in the past.

I hope the coming year brings you all everything you hope for and more. I know I’m looking forward to what she has in store for me!

Why it’s important to think small

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It’s that time of year again. People are stocking up on mountains of food in preparation for Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and (for this vegetarian) portobello mushroom wellingtons are filling people’s minds as they mentally prepare themselves for the giant production that is meant to be a day of being thankful. I’m guilty of it, too. We have our menu planned and the groceries were purchased today. Not only are people concentrating on their grocery lists, but they’re also compiling their Christmas shopping lists. They search through the Black Friday sale advertisements for Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and others, searching for the perfect gift for so-and-so and where they can get the best deal on it.

We get so caught up in the idea of getting a “deal” on Black Friday that we tend to forget a lot of things. To many of us, saving a few dollars on the latest toy for our child is worth waking up at the ass-crack of dawn on Black Friday, or more commonly today, forgoing time with our families on Thanksgiving evening. I understand that money is tight for most people these days, I certainly know it is for me. But I’m not willing to endure the insanity that is Black Friday just so I can buy the latest gadget for my brother at a discount. We forget that there are other options, and I admit that I, too, had forgotten until last year. Large chain retailers can afford to pay for commercials, radio ads, and flyers for every household so they can blast us with information regarding their steep discounts. Small retailers and non-profits can’t, so they tend to be forgotten.

For Christmas 2011, I made a goal for myself to spend at least 75% of my gift budget at small businesses or non-profit organizations. Being so used to purchasing from Amazon and Target, I surprised myself when I did better than 75%. Closer to 90% of my budget went to support small, independent retailers and businesses. I felt really good about the gifts I gave, too. I purchased fabric and supplies from my mom’s quilt shop and I made insulated lunch bags for my friends Erin and Mo and my brother, Evan. I then went to a small gift shop in Mt. Horeb, about 25 minutes from my home, to purchase a variety of salsas to put in Evan’s lunch bag since he loves salsa. They were all locally made using locally-grown produce. I purchased a gift certificate for my brother, Nicholas, for a non-profit historical movie theater near his home in Menlo Park, CA. He and my sister-in-law, Cynthia, enjoyed the Wurlitzer organ at the end of the show. I purchased hand-spun yarn made from scraps from the factories in India where silk saris are made. I used it to knit a scarf for my sister-in-law.

We need to stop getting caught up in the glamorization of Black Friday being a contest to see who can save the most money or get the best deal, just hours after sitting around a table with our loved ones, sharing a meal and talking about how thankful we are for what we already have. I remember seeing a photo of two people sitting in a tent outside of a Best Buy in Madison on the WEDNESDAY before Thanksgiving last year, just so they could ensure they would get in on whatever “limited quantity deal” that was being offered. These people skipped the entire Thanksgiving holiday to sit in a tent outside of a store.

I’m not perfect when it comes to shopping small and local, but I’m much better than I used to be. This year, I’m hoping to spend 100% of my Christmas gift-giving budget with small businesses and non-profits, because I personally feel that my neighbors, friends, and family members need my dollar more than the Walton family of Wal-Mart. I encourage you to, as much as you can, explore your communities and the communities around you to find small businesses. You might be surprised by what’s being offered so close to your home by so many independents. I know I have been. Although it’s an on-going experiment of sorts for me to readjust my way of thinking about where and from whom I buy things, I feel much better knowing that when we get our yogurt from the Paris family of Sugar River Dairy or buy a CSA share from the Dickson family of Christensens Farm or have lunch with Jim at the M&M Cafe, our money is going straight to them. I know their faces and their names and I can wave to them when I see them on the street or bump into them at the grocery store. In return, one of the owners of Sugar River Dairy shops at my mom’s quilt shop for her quilting supplies and Jim at the M&M Cafe offers lunch specials for quilters who come to the store for special events. We support each other in whatever ways we can and it helps build a strong sense of community.

You may be thinking to yourself that I sound very high and mighty in this post. While I may come off that way, it’s not at all how I feel. I simply feel passionate about supporting our small businesses and I want to do what I can to spread information to my friends and family about how important these businesses are to our communities. Oftentimes, small business owners take home no pay because their employees and bills need to be paid first. They put in long hours, many working 7 days per week. They donate whatever they have left to silent auctions for the local library or arts organization. They organize community events to collect food and money for the local food pantry when they hear its shelves are bare. Show them how much you appreciate the value they add to your community by shopping with them, not only during the holiday shopping season, but by making it a habit to shop with them year-round. They may not be able to sell you the items you want at 40% off, but they will do everything they can to make your experience with them worth spending the few extra dollars. They will learn your name and use it to greet you when you walk in the door. They will ask how your father is doing, knowing he’s been ill. They will ask you how the new training is going with the dog since she got on the dining room table and ate your hearing aid (this is a true story, by the way. One of our customers has a new puppy who has figured out how to get on the table).

These are the people I choose to support however I am able because I know how passionate they are about their work and just how much of themselves they put into their businesses.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving (yes, that’s the day after Black Friday) is Small Business Saturday. American Express began the movement in 2010 and it has taken off over the last two years, drawing attention from over 100 million Americans, including celebrities, professional athletes, politicians both Republican and Democrat, and even drawing President Obama out of the White House to take his daughters to an independent book store in Washington D.C. It’s expected to be even bigger this year. I hope you’ll all join me in shopping with the small business (or businesses!) of your choice that day. I know from first-hand experience how much it means to small business owners and employees. Don’t trust what I have to say? Here are some more reasons why shopping small is important.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Spend time with your families and friends and enjoy the wonderful parts of the season 🙂

So here’s what you missed

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Autumn is rapidly approaching, if not already upon us. I’m totally okay with that. I was getting really sick of the hot weather. This summer has been brutal and frankly, I finally feel like I can go out and do stuff. All I’ve been wanting to do all summer is sit inside where it’s cold because it’s been so completely miserable outside. That brings me to my next (and only) topic for this post: Out and About!

So last weekend was the first weekend it was pleasant enough to emerge from the cold cave-like atmosphere of our house and venture into the outside world. Mom and I were busy with Quilt Expo Wednesday though Saturday, but Sunday we were free and it was gorgeous out. It was in the low 70s and I don’t think there was a cloud in the sky. Evan had heard about an apple orchard on the news, so we decided to go!

I lied. There are clearly some big, poofy clouds in this photo.

This is Eplegaarden in Fitchburg. They’re all about the Norwegian experience and we had such a blast. We bought 2 20-lb bags (I’m not entirely sure why…) and grabbed a wagon then headed up the hill to the trees to start plukkin!

Mommy!

Mom and I got to the apple trees first (apparently getting an 18-month-old up a big hill is a bit of an ordeal), so we got to picking! We decided to load up 1 of the bags and half of the other bag with Haralson apples so we could make pies. When we got home, my mom started peeling and slicing the apples. Then she put them in gallon ziplock bags with sugar and cinnamon and now we have pre-made pie filling for the winter just waiting in the freezer!

Oskar did nothing to help us pick the apples.

Oskar apples about 15 apples that day (not really). He wasn’t so much interested in picking them from the tree. And why should he be when it was so much easier to just pick them out of the bag in the wagon and eat them?

 

This weekend is the Cheese Days Festival in Monroe. It’s every other year and it celebrates the cheesemakers and dairy farmers of Green County, Wisconsin. I want to say we have the highest concentration of master cheesemakers in the country, but I’m not positive. My point is this: don’t mess with Green County when it comes to cheese. We will beat you senseless with wheels of our glorious, award-winning cheeses.

Taste of Green County cheese tasting! YAY!

Julie and I ventured down to the festival today and we took a barn quilt tour (AWESOME!), took a tour of a dairy farm and got to talk to the farmers (AWESOME!), I pet a cow (AWESOME!), ate fried cheese curds (UHH… AWESOME!!!), and then came home ’cause it was time. But we’re going back tomorrow for the parade and more cheesy fun!

…Oh yeah, and beer, too 😉

Running to Catch Up

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So I know I said this in my last post, but it’s worth repeating:

I’ve been really bad about blogging regularly.

There’s been so much going on lately and I’ve been spending much of my free time looking and applying for jobs in the Chicago area. I really want to move back there, but I simply cannot do it without definite employment. It’s just very time-consuming and a bit frustrating because I’m one of those people who actually takes the time to research the organizations to whom I’m sending my resume and I craft cover letters specifically suited to them. It takes forever, but I refuse to put my name on something I’m not proud of. I stand behind my cover letters and while the job search can be very frustrating (especially when employers don’t even take the time to send a mass email to all the losers like me who don’t get the job), I can at least feel comfortable knowing I’m putting my best foot forward 🙂

In other news, we’ve been crazy busy at the store. Wisconsin Quilt Expo is coming up in about two weeks and for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of a big deal. Quilting related retailers from all over the country gather in Madison for a 3-day show and there are about 8 billion people who come (not really, obviously, but it’s something like 20,000, which is still a lot of people). We’re vending again this year and we are hoping to really feature my mom’s quilt designs and pattern line. She’s very talented (though she’d never admit it) and her patterns are quite popular with our clients, so we want to see how they go over with the larger Expo crowd. Anyway, it just means we’ve been busy finishing samples, packaging patterns, packing merchandise, and getting ready for the show. Oh, we also have a store to run. Oy vey.

In the middle of all that, I’ve also had one of my awesome, relentless sinus infections for… oh, 6+ months now. I’ve tried different antibiotics (found out I’m allergic to another one!), my neti pot, loading up on vitamins (Emergen-C makes me feel like I have super powers, but when it wears off I’m still sick), inhalers (nope), and antihistamines. I’ve also tried a gluten-free diet (TWICE! WORST THING EVER! (not really, but I just really, really, REALLY love my carb-y delicious bread and pasta)) to see if an allergy was causing the issues. I’ve done dairy-free before (also twice) and have come to the conclusion that it’s not a food allergy. I hate that nobody believes me because I’m just the patient and I don’t know anything (except my own health history and how I currently feel…). I did finally convince my doctor to refer me to an ENT and she did. I also convinced her to order the CT scan before my appointment with the ENT.

Let me back-track to explain something: I have already had 2 separate sinus surgeries: one the day before Thanksgiving 2004 (that was a fun holiday…) and one in August 2008 (please notice the 4-year gap between each of my previous episodes and my current one). The pattern has been the same each time: I start getting daily sinus headaches and I get a sinus infection that doesn’t go away with antibiotics. The doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics, trying different ones to find one that works (none of them work). Then they recommend allergy testing. Someone at some point will recommend a food allergy test so I go on some stupid diet that doesn’t change anything except to make my mood worse because I want my favorite foods, but I can’t have them. I eventually stop going to the doctor and just cope with the sinus infection and feel miserable for awhile. At some point, I convince someone to refer me to an ENT (or in the case of my first sinus surgery, I was just referred after they exhausted all other options). I have scans done and find out that surprise, surprise, my sinuses are effed up.

This time, I have to see a surgeon who specializes in revision septoplasties because I’ve already had 2, as well as a cyst removal from my left maxillary sinus cavity and widening of the opening to that cavity. The surgeon I’m going to see had his first available appointment on September 27. I scheduled my appointment on August 10. That’s 7 more weeks of living with this miserable sinus crap. Oh well, can’t do anything to change. Ah-ha, but I can do something to speed the process along! I knew that on September 27 I’d see the ENT, he’d feel my face and look in my nose and say that I should have a CT scan done. I’d get the scan and have a follow-up appointment some weeks after that (probably another 7). All-in-all, it would probably be 3-4 months (honestly, not exaggerating) before I got an answer. I just decided to skip ahead so I can have the scan in my hands when I see him next month, so I got my primary care doctor to order the scan. I had it done this morning and I asked them for a copy of it.

I got a call from my doctor late this afternoon telling me she received the results of my scan. She mumbles a lot and talks really fast, so I didn’t really catch everything she said, but I did hear “mucosal thickening” and I think something about narrowing of the airway. She said something else, too, but as I said… I didn’t hear everything.

Unfortunately, these things sound familiar to me from the last operation I had. Of course, I need to wait to see what the ENT says and I plan to ask him if I have any other options because frankly, I don’t feel like having sinus surgery every 4 years. I don’t want to another sinus surgery at all even if he has some magical fairy dust he can sprinkle while he’s in there. It’s expensive and PAINFUL and it blows (except your nose, ’cause you’re not allowed to blow it for like 2 weeks after the surgery). It’s seriously the most painful thing I’ve ever endured. The first night after my first surgery, I was sleeping in a chair because I was supposed to be sitting up and I woke up in the middle of the night, screaming because I was in so much pain. My face hurt so bad I couldn’t walk. Yeah. How are those two things related? I ended up crawling up the stairs, bawling for my mom (I was 17, gimme a break), who came running out of her room to try to console me. I had already maxed out the puny pain meds they’d given me (I think it was something insulting like Tylox). Eventually my mom dragged out the narcotics my dad had and she gave me half of one. I slept for like 12 hours. Anyway, my point is that it effing hurts. A LOT. And I don’t want to have another one.

Again, I may be jumping the gun, but I’m pretty nervous that I’m going to be needing another operation :-\ Good vibes for me?

Alrighty, well this has really turned into me complaining about my current health problem. Didn’t mean for it to turn into that, but there ya go. We have been enjoying our CSA box each week. We’ve gotten some sweet corn that, considering the extreme drought we’re in, we didn’t think we’d get this year. I’m not a corn-on-the-cob fan (not really a corn fan at all), but this sweet corn is SO GOOD. We’re also drowning in heirloom tomatoes from our own garden. So. Many. Tomatoes. They’re delicious, but I think my brother’s insane when he says he wants to double the crop for next year.

Alright, I’ll leave it there. Hope everyone’s doing well and… uh, yeah.

🙂

CSA Week #8

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Oh life. When are you going to slow down to let me catch up?

So we got this week’s CSA box and it’s not terribly exciting. Very similar to last week. But hey, fresh, local, organic veggies are just fine with me!

So the box:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • Kohlrabi
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Pickling cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapenos
  • Some type of hot pepper
  • Green bell peppers
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Eggplant
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic

Phew! Lots to go through this week. So here’s the plan:

Friday: Zucchini lasagna (it’s cooked in the microwave, but when it’s really hot like it has been, we put it in a metal casserole pan and toss it on the grill!)

Saturday: Turkey burgers with grilled potato & onion packets

Sunday: Stirfry with kohlrabi, bell peppers, onion, cauliflower, hot pepper

Monday: 5-layer Greek dip & Baba Ghanoush with pita

Tuesday: Black bean and goat cheese tacos with shredded pork and guacamole

Wednesday: Left-overs/clean out the fridge

I’ll be out of town this weekend, so I didn’t plan anything horribly exciting this week as far as food goes. I do think I’ll try to make this mango coconut chia pudding, though at some point. Yum.

Drinking for the 30th Summer Olympiad in London

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I graduated from college in 2009, which, let me tell ya, was the best time to graduate. Screw all those other times to graduate, May 2009 was the best, what with all that recession and unemployment and banking crisis and whatever…

I had a 3-month temporary contracted position from August – November 2009 and I was thrilled. It was a good job and I learned a lot, but they couldn’t afford to keep me after my 3 months was up. So I moved back to Chicago and began my FUNemployment. Eexcept that I wasn’t eligible to collect unemployment, so it wasn’t really all that fun. Not that I think it’s fun for anyone to collect unemployment. That’s another topic for another day… I applied for so many jobs. People think unemployed people sit around all day? Not true. I got up at 7 or 8, worked out for 45 minutes to an hour, had breakfast, took a shower, then sat at my desk and scoured various online resources for job postings. I applied for quite a few jobs. And I didn’t just throw my resume and cover letter at each job posting. I’m one of those people who actually takes a lot of time researching the organization or company and writes a thoughtful cover letter, unique to each posting. It takes forever to do that stuff.

So I did that from November until mid-February before I nearly became homicidal. I had a few interviews, but jobs weren’t really easy to come by, and I didn’t get any offers. So in February, when the Olympics in Vancouver began, I cut back on the applications. I still looked every day and still applied for jobs every day, but I didn’t do as many. I needed a break.

There were quite a few days I’d sit with a glass of wine or beer and turn on the TV to watch/listen to the Olympics as I wrote cover letters. There was SO. MUCH. CURLING. I literally watched curling for probably 4 or 5 hours each day. To this day, I don’t know what the rules are or how to play…

A few days into the games, I had the great idea to make a drinking game. So I did. Erin, my roommate at the time, is an elementary music teacher. She’d get home around 4 or 5 most days and we’d make dinner, watch the games, and drink, following the rules that we came up with. We also played over the phone and Skype with people or just texted friends when we saw something happen on TV that prompted a drink.

Due to the popularity of the drinking game for the 21st Winter Olympiad in Vancouver in 2010, I thought it might be fun to put together some new rules for London 2012!

Be sure to keep these “rules” handy for any time you find yourself watching the Olympics between July 25 & August 12 (I know they don’t officially start until the 27th, but there are events before that and we can’t let those events feel left out, can we? The US Women’s Soccer team plays against France on the 25th at 12 pm ET!)

Take 1 drink:

  • Every time you see a royal.
  • Every time the Olympic theme is played, sing along with “Bah”, “La”, or something similar, then take one drink.
  • Whenever Hope Solo is shown or talked about, shout “May the force be with you!” and take one drink.
  • Every time an American “takes the stage” (competes), take one drink and chant “U-S-A!”.
  • Whenever an athlete “is a superstar in his/her homeland”, take one drink.
  • When the camera pans to an athlete’s family, take one drink.
  • Whenever the announcer says a name that you can’t spell, take a drink.
  • Every time the commentator speaks of an athlete’s “determination” or “drive” to overcome some obstacle (an injury, personal hardship, etc) in order to participate in the Olympics.
  • Every time there’s a shot of something super English (Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, a double-decker bus, etc)

Take 1 shot:

  • Whenever you see a female athlete from Brunei (there is 1), Saudi Arabia (there are 2), or Qatar (there are 4). This is the first Olympics ever in which females from these 3 countries will compete!

Finish your drink:

  • When a track & field athlete breaks a world record.

 

*NOTE – these rules are subject to revision. If you have any ideas, please feel free to contribute!

*NOTE ALSO – let me know if/when you are playing this game and we can play together – over text, Google+, phone, or some other means of communication.